When I was in my late 20s, I started developing pain in my butt and right leg. It was very minor, and more of an annoyance than anything, but enough of a signal that prompted me to see someone about it.
I wasn’t sure who to see, but I ended up choosing a chiropractor. I went, she moved my body in a certain way, I heard cracks and pops, and the next day the pain was gone.
I thought, “Okay, great! I have a solution to the pain. If it ever happens again, I’ll just go get adjusted.”
About a month later it happened again. Same pain, no worse – no better than last time. I scheduled an appointment, go adjusted, and once again, I was good to go!
After a few months, the pain started increasing in frequency. It wasn’t getting worse, it was just happening more often. So… I scheduled my appointments more often. Plus, I had a very conscientious chiropractor who said I should go get x-rays.
I declined the x-rays due to funds and just continued to show up at her office every few weeks.
Soon, it was happening even more often. At least once a week, I would feel this pain radiating from my lower back and down the side of my right leg. Not only was I feeling the physical discomfort, but I was also starting to feel the effects of the pain in my wallet.
I realized that I couldn’t continue paying to see a chiropractor once a week. Plus, it appears to be getting worse so I better figure something out.
What did I do? I figured out how to adjust myself! I could sit in a chair, cross my leg, and twist my back. Crack – it worked! Great! Now I don’t have to pay for adjustments and can get rid of the pain on my own.
That’s all well and good, however… there was a reason it was getting worse. But I didn’t care about the reason at the time. What was most important to me was saving money.
“As long as I can alleviate this pain, I’ll be fine!”
I tend to have this stubborn nature about myself sometimes. But, for the most part, my self-adjustments kept the pain controlled for years.
But it was getting worse.
Fast forward several years. The pain is always there and only a few positions actually alleviate it. My self-adjustments no longer work and sitting in a normal position exacerbates it. I was starting to realize there would be no escape and this will need to be addressed sometime in my life.
I went to a doctor and finally got diagnosed with something! Sciatica.
Knowing this, I could finally assess my options. I could get an injection that may alleviate the pain… or not. Or, I could get surgery.
Having no insurance at the time, I chose neither and decided to keep adjusting myself instead. Looking back, I should have at least tried the injection! But money was always an issue so I decided that the pain was not debilitating so I kept moving forward.
About a year later, the pain is pretty much affecting my life in every way. But there was good news: I finally got a job that provided medical insurance. I thought, “Yes! Now is the time to take care of this problem once and for all.”
But, I didn’t.
During my year and a half with medical insurance, I chose not to take the time off of work to get surgery. Heck, I could have at least tried the injection, but they said it would last at most a year so what’s the point, right?
Right… so do nothing (Let’s just say I didn’t formulate the best solutions for myself back then). My job ended and I lost my insurance. I was back at square one.
On year 13 with consistent pain in my butt and leg, I simply lost my joy for life. I wasn’t completely depressed or demoralized, but I felt hopeless. I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could do and that I would never have a life without pain again.
But that’s when something changed inside of me. At the point of the most desperate longing for a solution to this pain, I came to the realization that my pain would simply never go away.
I came to the acceptance that this pain will be prevalent and there will never be anything that I can do about it.
It is unavoidable and undeniable. I will live with this pain for the rest of my life.
That was hard to accept. I didn’t want to think that way because I still had plans to get surgery. But for one reason or another, surgery never came.
I was hopeless, desperate, sad, angry, and probably a few other emotions too. And in this darkest hour, I shifted. I reached the bottom of the emotional barrel and had nowhere else to go.
When you reach the bottom, there’s either acceptance or death. And both are a path to freedom.
I don’t mean physical death, I mean the death of hope and aspirations. I mean the death of wishful thinking. When you can’t sink any lower, you stop sinking.
This is when I shifted: I stopped sinking.
This “shift” was full acceptance that I will never know life without pain and there was nothing I would ever be able to do about it.
Believe it or not, this was liberating! This was a freedom I hadn’t felt in over 10 years. I discovered that my struggle to get better was part of what was keeping me miserable.
Every day I would try to reject the pain. I would fight it, wanting it to go away. It was a constant struggle with no end. And I would go to bed at night unhappy.
What amplified the pain was not physical, it was emotional. It was my resistance to the pain that amplified the effect it had on my life. However bad it felt, it was worse when I refused to accept it as part of me.
I refused to believe that there would be no resolution. I did not want to accept that life would be full of pain until I died.
And that resistance kept me unhappy.
But that day I accepted the pain would never go away – I shifted. I accepted that the pain was a part of me and that I would never be without it. And suddenly, I felt better.
The pain didn’t go away… I just felt better about it.
Accepting that chronic pain will never go away is the first step towards coming to a more peaceful place inside you. It doesn’t mean you don’t stop searching for solutions, it just means you’ve let go of your resistance to it. Releasing the resistance towards anything liberates you from its clutches.
Physical pain is real, but why amplify it with resistance to that pain? It’s a hard journey for sure, but it doesn’t have to be wrought with struggle.
Pain is pain, suffering is resistance to that pain.
Accept chronic pain as a part of you and know that it will never go away. This releases your resistance to it, giving you a clearer, more focused perspective on life and moving forward.
Once you accept, you can search for solutions to your pain without fighting it. Accepting that it will never leave you doesn’t mean it’s true – it’s just to get you to a place where you can stop suffering.
Two years after my acceptance, I got another job with insurance and this time took advantage of it. My MRI showed degeneration in one of the discs in my lower back, causing two vertebrae to come together pinching my sciatic nerve.
After 5 days in the hospital, and another visit several months later to get a pin removed, my sciatic nerve pain decreased 95%.
To me, it was completely gone.
It took six months of physical therapy and another year and a half before I could fully trust that the area had healed. But it did, and today I am in a whole new space.
I feel my sciatic nerve maybe 5% of the time now. Sure, it’s not completely gone, but it’s completely acceptable to me. I don’t have an answer to chronic pain except that it doesn’t have to stop you from living life in a way that is satisfying.
I was fortunate to find a solution. If you are working through your chronic pain, keep your mind open to solutions but don’t let it stop you from living a life without suffering.
Pain should be a signal, but not something that stops you from enjoying life in some capacity. I hope my story and this episode of the show helps you come to terms with any pain that you or someone you know may be experiencing.